Tag Archives: Andrew Salkey

‘The Atmosphere Man’


You know who I’d love to meet? Andrew Salkey. I already mentioned him way back when I wrote about Black History Month way back when. Salkey was our student in the 50’s and then went on to be a novelist, poet, journalist, broadcaster; a significant figure in Jamaican literature; it probably be easier to say what he wasn’t. And I also can say that he would be a great person to know. Sometimes I come across things he wrote for different Marjon’s publications where his wry humour was often employed to make excellent observations about contemporary life. I would say even more: I maintain that Andrew Salkey was an early post-colonial writer. Case and point: ‘The Atmosphere Man’- a story published in College magazine in 1957. It was no doubt inspired by his own experiences. The story shows a moment in a day of an employee of a coffee bar, that we assume is Salkey himself. This bar was set-up to create an ‘exotic’ atmosphere and Salkey was expected to be, in a way, a part of the furnishing. As a black man, he was to make his white clients as if they were visiting some distant part of British Empire, where a ‘local’ black man would serve them coffee. He is told by his employer not to be caught with The Times by the patrons because a black man pursuing intellectual endeavours would ruin the illusion. The story itself is a short but brilliant insight into the mindset of colonialism, a time capsule for outlook that is absurd for the modern sensibilities, yet it held on for so long nonetheless.
Well, I’m too late. Andrew Salkey died in1995. I’ll never have the pleasure of meeting him which is a great shame as he must have been a fascinating person to talk to.


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Black History Month at Marjon

Hey everybody, it’s Black History Black-History-Month-logo-300x222Month! In this day and age it’s more and more difficult to talk about race. We are afraid to raise the subject fearing that we might give offense by accident. Yet talk we must, otherwise we risk falling into old patterns and making the same mistakes as the generations past.

We have a display for the occasion. It consists of two parts. There are cases with the information, pictures and other memorabilia of important black students and teachers from Marjon’s history. Those are located near the entrance to the library and were prepared by Jo Irwin-Tazzer of the library staff. The other part consists of an information board on the wall near the right-side staircase. This one was prepared by Linda Tout of Marjons Disability and Inclusion.

At the displays you can see and learn about people who lived and thrived even though their era refused to treat them seriously. Go check them out, you’d be glad you did.


Henry Rawlinson Carr posing for a group photo

Have you ever heard about Henry Rawlinson Carr? He was a student of St. Marks’ in the 19th century and came from Lagos. He went to become the first black inspector of schools. It was in the days when people like him were still bought and sold like livestock.

There was a man Williams Robinson Tucker that came to St. John from Bermuda. He is probably the first black man recorded as a trainee teacher. It was in 1846, just 13 years after the abolition of slavery.

People who have interest in African studies know Andrew Salkey, a famous poet, writer, activist and filmmaker. However, not many people know that he was once a student of St Marks and St Johns in the fifties.

I know it is really hard to pay attention while you’re carrying a tower of books, but if you have a ten minutes free, go and see the display.

I wanted to talk about technical side of our display capabilities, but I realized it is a subject worth a separate article.

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